AT 16 years old Nathan Luscombe, in his own opinion, was a better player than the team-mates who are now plying their trade in the Premier League, one of whom was this summer transferred for £20m.
Two cruciate ligament injuries later and the Gateshead-born midfielder was hobbling towards the precipice of footballing oblivion.
The teenage comrades he had rated himself as superior to had broken into the first-team at Sunderland and were enjoying loan spells at Championship clubs.
Martyn Waghorn, now at Leicester City, Jack Colback, who started for the Black Cats against Pools last week, and Jordan Henderson, a fully-capped England international who left Wearside for Liverpool in an eight-figure deal in June are the trio Luscombe points to.
By now 21, he was told towards the back end of last season that his future lay away from the Stadium of Light.
A summer-long trawl of lower-league clubs loomed on the horizon until Pools stepped in and offered him a deal in May - a fall from grace, some would goad, for a player once tipped for big things at Sunderland.
Not that Luscombe views it like that.
Rather, the straight-talking youngster sees this as a career lifeline, and not just in a footballing sense.
“Where I’m from none of my friends are in football,” he told SportMail in an honest and open interview.
“After my two injuries I didn’t know what was going to happen – I thought it was over and I admit I went off the rails a little bit.
“But it makes you realise that you’re just lucky to have a job and you can’t take anything for granted.
“When you’re injured it’s a totally different mindset to adjust to what has happened and I didn’t adjust well enough.
“You look at Jordan Henderson, Martyn Waghorn and Jack Colback and I think I was better than them before I got my injury – that was hard to take at times.”
Full story in Friday’s Mail